Project #8847


by United Nations Foundation

Dennis Ogbe is a world-class athlete, husband, father, and polio survivor. He is the top ranked American and U.S. champion in both shot put and discus classifications. His native country of Nigeria recently had an outbreak of polio in August 2016 – the first cases of wild polio virus detected on the Africa continent in more than two years, prompting an emergency vaccination campaign across Nigeria and surrounding countries in the Lake Chad region. Nigeria and its neighbors continue urgent steps to reach all children with immunization and to improve surveillance. We sat down with Dennis to share the personal story of someone who is still living with the effects of the disease and his hope for the future of children, in Nigeria and throughout the world.

Tell us about your personal experience with polio.

Polio will affect me as long as I’m alive. Once you get polio, you can’t get rid of it. You may live with a deformity for the rest of your life, and if you are lucky, you are going to be alive to go through the different pain that exists from it. But how you live with it depends on your environment, where you are living, and who is advocating for you to keep your head above the water. I can walk now, with a very big limp, but the memory of my old wheelchair and crutches will never go away. Because of the limp, I have to be cognizant of where I step, how I walk, if it snows or rains, when I climb up or down stairs, or when I’m carrying my children. I have to make sure my balance is right, and because my left leg is still paralyzed and weak, I still fall down. This is something I am going to live with forever. This is why I push and advocate for the vaccine, so no child has to go through what I’m going through.

Why is it important to maintain support for finishing the job of polio eradication?

Polio is almost eradicated. It remains endemic in only three countries, Nigeria, where I’m originally from, Afghanistan and Pakistan. So the focus now is to make sure we eradicate polio once and for all. A lot of the work that has been done over the years by foundations and organizations have helped get resources to these countries. But we shouldn’t stop there. Advocacy needs to continue. Children across the world still need to be immunized so polio doesn’t come back. Nigeria was polio free until the recent outbreak, it’s a continuous process. We need to be polio free once and for all. As long as polio exists anywhere, it’s a threat everywhere. We need to get families and children into the clinics and hospitals to get the polio vaccination and others. In parts of the world, like Nigeria, the educational gap is very wide. So if we don’t push grassroots education, we will still have this margin. We need to make sure children have the vaccine. It’s crucial for their survival.

What encouragement can you give to other survivors? What advice would you give to their family and friends?

I am so lucky to have polio and only have a limp. I walk now without a wheelchair or crutches. As I said, I still fall down, but for a lot of other polio survivors, many of them cannot walk and they can’t do anything by themselves. They are in survival mode. But what I will tell them is that where there is life, there is hope. Whatever the deformity, they can educate themselves. They can better their life. They are mentally alive. They can use their voice for advocacy. They can use it for the good of themselves or for the good of other citizens, wherever they are in the world. My family never gave up on me. I am so blessed to be where I am now, but it took a lot of people to get me here – my teachers, my priests, my friends, my neighbors, and my family. They showed me what I can do. My dad never went to school, and what he gave me was education. That was what broke the barrier. Without education, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The things I do today were unimaginable when I was 3 or 4, still with my crutches and wheelchair. I didn’t think I would be anyone of significance. But all these people keep me going; where there is life, there is hope. As family and friends of polio survivors, try to listen to the survivors, and try to help them how they need to be helped. But it’s up to the survivor to help themselves too – to do something worthwhile, noble, and something that helps others. I hope all polio survivors have the opportunity to raise families themselves and to earn a livelihood.

You are a longtime supporter of the Shot@Life Champion Summit. What keeps you coming back every year?

I know the job isn’t finished. I’m 100% vested in this cause, because I live it, and I can use my voice to encourage other champions. America has been polio free for decades now, so having someone attend the summit with polio shows people that polio still exists. I’m a walking billboard to show it is still a current disease. I come every year to show not just my solidarity, but that yes, this guy has polio, he comes from a country that still has polio, he come from a very remote village, and look at where he is now and what he is doing. I come every year to encourage and thank the Champions, but also remind them that we still need action. We still need resources and man power. We need the Champions to go to their Congressmen and women to advocate so the U.S. government keeps allocating money for vaccines year after year. Not just for polio, but all vaccine-preventable diseases. We are now living in a world where people travel back and forth easily between countries, so just because a disease is not in the U.S. now, doesn’t mean a catastrophe couldn’t happen. And the only way to ensure that it doesn’t is by completely eradicating the disease.

When someone comes up to you at the gym while you are training and asks about your condition, what is your response to them?

Polio still exists. Just because you don’t see it around you, it’s there. Some younger people don’t even know what polio is. Some older people may know someone who had polio back in the day. But not today. We need to educate people. Tell them what polio really is and show them that people with polio can live to their best potential. But no kid should have to grow up experiencing the challenges that I have. And they don’t need to.

What do you hope for the future?

We need to stay optimistic. We have come a long way, but there is still more to go. I hope the future is better; the future should be the 100% eradication of polio. Once we cross that finish line, then we can rest. Then we have really done it. For now, we just need to do the best we can to get there.

The world is very close to eradicating polio. Over 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated since 1988, and the number of polio cases per year is down by 99 percent. When we succeed, no child will be paralyzed by polio ever again, making polio the second human disease eradicated in history!

- See more at:

November 11, 2016 was World Pneumonia Day. Shot@Life recognized this important day along with other vaccine partners, using the hashtag #StopPneumonia. Pneumonia – a lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses and, more rarely, fungi – is the number one cause of death in children worldwide. Every year an estimated 156 million new cases of pneumonia and nearly 2 million deaths from the disease occur in children under 5 years of age.  The impact of this disease is not distributed equally between populations – the poorest and most marginalized children bear the brunt of the effects, with 99% of pneumonia deaths occurring in developing countries.  Fortunately, pneumonia is preventable and there are steps people around the world can take to reduce the global burden of pneumonia.

  • Exclusive Breastfeeding – Not only does breast milk promote sensory and cognitive development in infants, it can also protect them against infectious disease.  At birth, a baby’s immune system is relatively fragile and sensitive, but through breastfeeding they can acquire passive immunity from their mothers.  The antibodies present in breastmilk help protect against disease causing bacteria and viruses until the baby can produce their own antibodies. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a newborn’s life.
  • Vaccination – Vaccines are effective against some of the main causes of pneumonia. Two vaccines against bacterial pathogens – Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – are currently available in many countries worldwide. If these two vaccines were given to all children, they could prevent more than half of the world’s cases of pneumonia.
  • Good Hygiene – The germs that cause pneumonia can easily be spread through person-to-person contact.  Good hygiene practices, which include thorough and frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow or sleeve instead of hands, and avoiding interaction with those who are sick can reduce the risk of developing the infection.
  • Reducing Air Pollution – In developing countries, one of the biggest threats to respiratory health is closer to home than many would imagine.  Currently, around three billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves.  The reduction of indoor air pollution in low-resource areas is seen as one of the strongest factors in reducing pneumonia-related morbidity and mortality.  Organizations like The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstovesaim to improve lives through clean and efficient household cooking solutions.

Vaccinating children against pneumonia is vitally important. However, no one form of prevention is a panacea against pneumonia.  These strategies, when implemented together, can drastically reduce risk of infection and improve quality of life in children all over the world.

- See more at:

Thanks to the work of our UN partners, the world has made great strides towards ending polio and the disease has dropped 99.9% since 1988. However the world was saddened and surprised by a recent polio outbreak in Nigeria, which had previously been polio-free for nearly two years. The disease also remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The news of the recent polio outbreak serves as an important reminder that until every last child is vaccinated against polio, the disease will continue to pose a threat to the world. Now more than ever, we need to act.

This fall, Shot@Life is engaging all of our supporters in polio eradication efforts and that’s challenging each and every one of you to get out there and help us defeat polio for good through joining our Race to Erase, Shot@Life’s fall coast-to-coast activation. Starting today and in the lead up to World Polio Day, Race to Erase will challenge supporters to stand up to help protect kids from polio and eradicate this debilitating disease by fundraising and advocating to your members of Congress. 

What’s Race to Erase?

It is a 5K Run or Walk (or any other activity you desire) during the countdown to World Polio Day on October 24, 2016. 

If you want to join us:

Poliovirus is fast, but we can be faster.

It’s that simple. Find out more here.

Image Courtesy of GPEI
Image Courtesy of GPEI

A major global health event recently is set to take place. Between April 17 and May 1 155 countries will withdraw one oral polio vaccine and roll out—or “switch to”—another. This synchronized vaccine switch is unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.

What It Is

Countries that are currently using the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to protect children from polio will switch from using the trivalent oral polio vaccine, which includes live, but weakened strains from all three types of poliovirus (types 1, 2, and 3) and is delivered via two liquid drops in the mouth, to a bivalent vaccine that is delivered in the same way but includes strains from just 2 types of poliovirus: types 1 and 3. The type 2 strains of the virus are being removed from the vaccine because this type has been declared eradicated, meaning that it is no longer in existence anywhere on earth.

What It Means

The switch demonstrates just how close we are to eradicating polio once and for all. We have already eradicated one type of the virus, and the last case of wild poliovirus type 3 was seen over 3 years ago. Additionally, by removing the type 2 strain from the vaccine, we are also removing the risk of this vaccine strain causing the rare instances of vaccine-derived polio that we’ve seen in the past. We are truly closing in on all aspects of this crippling disease.

How You Can Get Involved

Learn more: This is just a brief overview of the switch, but there is so much more! To learn more about polio vaccines, why the switch is necessary, and why it’s important to keep using oral polio vaccines until we eradicate polio, watch these short videos produced by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Advocate: Financing for the switch and for other crucial global health efforts wouldn’t be possible without people like you advocating for them and donating to the cause. We need your help to end this disease.

Tweet this: We are so close to #endpolio. Please support giving children around the world a @ShotatLife #vaccineswork

And please spread the word by sharing this post!

Photo: Gavi/Isaac Griberg
Photo: Gavi/Isaac Griberg

Immunisation as the gateway to health: why women hold the key in Pakistan

This post originally appeared on Gavi’s blog, Vaccineswork. Author Anuradha Gupta is Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Her name was Nusarat. She was young and petite with gleaming, hopeful eyes – the only thing I could see from behind her veil. She had a four-month-old baby on her lap whom she had brought in to be vaccinated. She told me she was 22 years old, got married at 20 and had two children in quick succession. As she was not happy with the situation, she had now decided to start family planning. When I asked what contraception she used, she blushed and said “we are doing something”.

She also told me that her first child was not vaccinated until she, on a friend’s advice, came to get a tetanus shot during her second pregnancy. Only then was she informed about child vaccination and its benefits. It was clear that Nusarat would not talk about these personal issues unless it was to a woman who seemed friendly and supportive.

Several young mothers like Nusarat were waiting patiently and silently for their turn at the crowded immunisation site in a large slum in Lahore. The male vaccinator was concentrating on giving shots to the children, somewhat mechanically. Still, it was rewarding to see children receiving protection against life-threatening diseases. Child mortality rates remain high in Pakistan – more than 1,000 children die every day before celebrating their fifth birthday, and vaccine-preventable diseases account for half of these deaths (pneumonia causes 27% of child deaths and diarrhoea another 20%, with measles and meningitis also claiming many young lives).

It was hard to argue with the vaccinator’s single-minded focus on injecting vaccines. The site was cramped, most women were inhibited in communicating with him and he had to simultaneously vaccinate and fill in the details of each child in the register on his table. Concentrating on the task at hand, he did not encourage any conversation.

But the scene left me with several questions. Does the fact that Pakistan only has male vaccinators inhibit coverage? Do some women find approaching a male vaccinator a barrier that is difficult to cross and therefore decide not to take their children to be vaccinated? Are precious opportunities for integration with other health services being lost unnecessarily?

In most countries supported by Gavi, it is customary to have female frontline health workers. Often they do not only vaccinate children but also take the opportunity to talk to mothers about a range of maternal and child health issues. Even though we would all like to see fathers more involved in childhood immunisation, in reality it is still almost always mothers who bring their children to vaccination sessions.

Understandably, it is easier for women to have a conversation with a female health worker around issues of contraception or breastfeeding. In a cultural setting like Pakistan, in particular, where women may be diffident and constrained in their communication with unfamiliar men, not having female vaccinators could be a serious missed opportunity for delivering immunisation together with other reproductive, maternal and child health services.

There is increasing recognition that immunisation can be the gateway to a range of other health services. Vaccination can be leveraged to bundle services and generate broader awareness, not just around reproductive, maternal and child health but also issues like sanitation, nutrition and hygiene.

During my previous visits to Laos and the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw efforts in this direction. Another example is my own country, India, which has repositioned immunisation days as Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Days. The aim is to mobilise the country’s 150,000 female frontline health workers to use outreach immunisation sessions more effectively to the benefit of mothers, children and communities.

Pakistan has already started training its Lady Health Workers to provide immunisation, replacing the current model of male-only vaccinators. This could be a turning point for expanding immunisation coverage through better communication and trust-building with mothers. Immunisation sessions could then finally be used to their full potential.


About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

United Nations Foundation

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Shannon Aud
Washington, District of Columbia United States

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.